In the US, the last Monday of May is annually celebrated as Memorial Day - a day of remembering all those who died serving in the armed forces. Previously known as Decoration Day, this day was observed for honoring and remembering those who were deceased in the Civil War only. After World War I, Memorial Day came into being to honor the military personnel who lost lives in all wars.
Cemeteries and memorials are visited on Memorial Day by numerous families to pay tribute to those who lost their lives fighting for the nation.
Origin and History -
General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic called for a national day to remember of all deceased during the Civil War. He assigned the 30th of May, 1868 to be the day of remembrance and tribute. Decoration Day was being observed on 30th May to honor only the Civil War fighters till World War I.
But after the sacrifice American soldiers made and the loss families faced during the World War, Memorial Day came into being as a holiday to commemorate the military personnel of all wars.
Many towns and cities claim to be the first to begin with Memorial Day. Waterloo held the largest community-wide ceremony to honor local veterans on 5th May1866. It used to be a practice to decorate the graves of soldiers at many scattered places but Waterloo, New York was officially given the title to be the birth place of in 1966.
Congress declared Memorial Day as a national holiday in 1971 to be held annually on the last Monday of May.
First Memorial Day -
On May 30th 1868, the first Memorial Day was held at Arlington National Cemetery and General James Garfield made a speech. About 5000 people attended the ceremony.
Observance then and today -
Traditionally, cemeteries and memorials are visited by numerous families on Memorial Day. Graves of all those who lost their lives in war are decorated and sometimes, American flags are placed on each grave. This practice is continued till date. Other than this, large parades are held in various cities with parades of Chicago, New York and Washington D.C being the most popular. Marching bands and music performances are the major highlights of Memorial Day parades.
The National Memorial Day concert is held on the west lawn of the United States Capitol each year.
However, slightly losing its essence, Memorial Day presently is much more of an opportunity for family gatherings and to have a gala time. People throw parties and have barbecues.
Memorial Day brings vacation along -
Memorial Day is said to be the day that marks the beginning of summer. Vacations come along with this day as schools come to a close.